Winter looms above us like a dark prophecy…
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But remember a few weeks ago when I said that winter was just a few kilometers up the road? I wasn’t wrong.
It started out simple enough. Santana had a four-hour shift to put in. Rather than drop him off, go home, turn around and come back, I decided to go for a drive. I’d been wanting to check out a certain stretch of road – Jack Pine Forestry to Bear Lake Main to the Coquihalla Connector. My concern was the Connector. A high mountain pass that connects mild-mannered Highway 97 to the tempest that is the Coquihalla, the Connector is subject to rapid weather changes and high volumes of snow. Frequent accidents are the norm. Drive BC has a sign between West Kelowna and Peachland that keeps drivers up to date on the road conditions. I figured if the sign said it was bad, I’d just roll on into Peachland and buy myself some lunch. Win-win.
The sign said, “Slippery Sections.” That didn’t sound too bad. I exited onto Glenrosa Road and began my ascent.
Evidence of winter’s approach was almost immediate. Before I was even beyond the residential area, there was snow on the side of the road. The further I went, the thicker it got. The weird thing was that the snow had been plowed. I have to ask – who does that? Or a better question – who pays for it? When I lived out in the country, if you weren’t on a school bus route, you were pretty much S-O-L. And finally, if the money is there, why hasn’t the road been fixed?
It was, however, absolutely gorgeous. The sky was a brilliant blue and for the most part, the snow had that virginal look to it. Except for the tracks.
When I lived in Alberta and worked in the newspaper industry, we would arrive home everyday shortly after sunrise and I would check the yard to see what creatures had visited through the night by reading the tracks. We got quite a variety – enough so that I finally asked Santa to bring me a trail cam. I left Alberta before getting the chance to set it up.
I could see plenty of tracks in the snow. Deer and rabbit, birds, coyotes and even a large cat, although I couldn’t say for sure if it was lynx or cougar. The snow had blown over, so the tracks weren’t exceptionally clear, but I could see that there were no claw marks. That’s how you tell the difference between canine and feline tracks. Canines don’t have retractable claws.
The snow was thick in the areas the sun couldn’t reach, hanging precariously from branches. It sparkled blue and silver in the filtered light.
Partially frozen streams added texture to the landscape.
Eventually, I reached the junction of Jack Pine Forestry and Bear Lake Main. I made my turn. The road was narrower here, hugged by trees on both sides – and it hadn’t been plowed. I stopped to take some photos and couldn’t help but slip into a memory.
It was near Christmas and I was about eleven. I was spending a few days with my best friend and cousin on her farm. Every season on the farm had something special, but winter seemed even more so. Whether it was skating on the frozen beaver dam or snowmobiling in the endless fields, there was always something. On this evening, we were on our way to a neighboring farm for a Christmas party. The road was exactly like this one, dark and magical, and there was an air of anticipation, the kind you only feel when you’re young.
I remember the kids were permitted to drink cider. I’m not sure if the parents realized that the alcohol percentage was higher in the cider than in the beer they were drinking, but somehow, I don’t think so. I think they thought it was non-alcoholic. Albertans weren’t that familiar with cider in those days. I don’t remember much more about that night – no big surprise there.
But that road – that road with its towering trees and snow-coated branches is something I never forgot.
I wanted to drive down this road – I was hungering to drive down this road. I rounded the first corner. The snow was getting deeper. There was a large 4X4 headed toward me, only the second vehicle I had seen all day. I pulled as far over to the side as I could to make room for him to pass. I felt the rear end of the car slip a little and quickly corrected the steering. My window was already down, as usual, so I waved at the other driver as he was about to pass. He lowered his window and looked down at me.
“How’s the road ahead?” I asked. He shook his head.
“It just gets worse from here.” He looked down at my little old Grand Prix with its all-season tires. “Frankly, I’m amazed you made it this far.”
“I drive slow.”
With a wave he pulled away. I thought about it for a minute or two. I looked longingly down the road and with a sigh I wiggled my little car back and forth until I was fully turned around.
I may be adventurous, but I’m not stupid.